Making your own tools – Part 1

When I started picking locks, many years ago, there wasn’t an internet to ask questions of, and definitely no cheap Chinese website to order from. The first lock I picked was with a plastic coffee stirrer! This was after I watched someone break into a vending machine. As a child, I couldn’t really figure it out beyond the basic idea, but, since he worked for my dad, and it was the company vending machine, he showed me the trick, and yes, the little wafer lock on that (old, giant) 10p to vend tea, coffee and hot chocolate machine literally fell open to the coffee stirrers that were sitting right there on the machine!

So, making a plastic tool can sometimes work. But, for a fractionally good lock, it won’t likely work. We need metal. And the strongest metal is steel. A good high carbon steel, or drawn steel wire, is hundreds of times stronger than a soft bit of iron, let alone a drink stirrer. Oh, you’ll still bend it if you make it too thin or get it too hot, but let’s at least start off with the best we can get, right?

For lever lock tools, and some other stuff when you need long and thin, cold drawn piano wire is perfect. Even a thin length of 1.6mm wire can hold over a ton in tension! You’ll want to get SWG11 down to SWG18 – 3mm down to 1.2mm – but it’ll depend what you can find in your local model shop. Why there? Because they need your support, it is cheaper than the internet, and, you’ll get nice one metre lengths of it. Make sure it is actual piano wire though. It’s got an actual British Standard (BS6722:1986) and everything, which basically ensures it is really, really strong and in specific sizes. That’s for parts 2 and 3 though.

For regular cylinder (non-dimple) picks though, using super hard piano wire would be far too much filing and bending. There are three commonly recommended sources, and since one of those is car engine dipsticks, and the other is “buying the (new) head of a street sweeper”, we are going to talk about the actually available one. Car windscreen wipers.

There are three types of car windscreen wipers, but the most common one is the type we want.

The next pictures don’t really need words, you just use a sturdy pair of pliers and rip the wiper apart, leaving the steel strip(s). You can throw the rest away. But, there’s words if you need them. Just mind the pointy bits in the twin steel type.


For handles, you can choose whatever you like for a handle, and this will likely vary more by personal preference than availability. If you work with wood, you’ll have plenty of offcuts and experience to make a basic handle. If you work with anything bar IT you’ll have something you can use. Lolly pop sticks are quite popular for the beginner. Tape wrapped around, heat shrink, plastic dips, resin dips, epoxy, Sugru and Polymorph plastics, 3D printed designs – there’s little limit. Don’t go for dense metals though, as they tend to just be too heavy – they work better on dimple picks. Aluminium works well, though is harder to work than most woods. Just see what you have to hand, or can get. Pen blanks are a really common high end solution, with some stunningly pretty finishes.

hard wood handle epoxy and shim steel long curve pick
A simple hard wood handle, epoxy and shim steel long curve pick

There’s plenty of online tutorials on how to make a lock pick, so you can take a look at those, or drop into the Discord, or, if you’re reading this in the future, you can read the next post, Making your own tools – Part 2 about making dimple lockpicks, or, in the really far future, Making your own tools – Part 3 about making lever lock picks! Isn’t living in the high tech future great?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top